China Eyes Overseas Metal Bases


China will develop overseas nonferrous metal bases and phase out obsolete smokestack domestic industries during its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said on Monday.

The ministry said the country will put "priority" on overseas nonferrous metal base development compared with domestic facilities and will focus on developing bilateral relationships for resource extraction with other countries.

"In overseas markets, China will encourage capable Chinese enterprises to explore copper, aluminum, zinc, nickel and titanium resources and speed up the process of setting up overseas nonferrous metal supply bases," the ministry said.

Last year, the conglomerate CITIC Group signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Bolivia to jointly explore lithium resources in Bolivia's Coupasa salt flats, as previously reported in China Daily.

Domestically, the government is boosting the development of nonferrous metal exploration in western China, including the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Qinghai province, and is encouraging mining companies to prolong operations at existing mines. Copper, aluminum, lead, zinc, nickel, tin, antimony, titanium, mercury and magnesium account for more than 95 percent of China's nonferrous metal output and more than 85 percent of the sector's sales revenue.

MIIT said that during the next four years, China will reduce pollution and curb capacity in energy-intensive nonferrous metal processing industries.

Energy consumption for each unit of industrial output is forecast to drop 21 percent from the levels at the end of 2010, and water consumption should slide 30 percent. Carbon emissions for each unit of industrial output should be cut by 18 percent.

MIIT noted that the electrolytic aluminum industry has faced overcapacity since the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005-2010). In 2010, the sector ran at just 70 percent of maximum capacity.

"The aluminum industry will put greater emphasis on the domestic market and control output and exports in the next four years," the ministry said. Given the importance of rare earths, the ministry said that it will release a separate industry plan for the sector later this year.

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